TR: Joyland- August 25, 2002
The Place: Joyland (Kansas)
The Date: August 25, 2002
Weather: Hot and sunny
The Reasons: Experience more Schmeck goodness
“There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage.”
Many have complained that the drive across Kansas is almost as entertaining as watching paint peel or an Ishtar marathon on TBS. Perhaps it is because I love to travel, but I found the drive from Kansas City to Wichita to be quite interesting. It is not a drive I would want to do weekly, but there was something breathtaking about cresting a hill, looking to the left and being able to see for miles on end. With the stereo cranked and the rented Dodge Neon’s speedometer steadily on 80 m.p.h. the drive flew by (see footnote for more info). After getting off the traffic and cop-free Kansas Turnpike it took me about five minutes to get to Joyland. The park itself is perched in the middle of a housing area, with some businesses and lots of homes (some run down) nearby. The park is set way back off the road, but I stopped because of the very cool Joyland sign that beckoned visitors inside. The first sight is the Schmeck-designed Roller Coaster that wraps around the left side of the parking lot. Only a little bit more of the park can be seen, mostly the Skycoaster and the Eli Bridge wheel. I parked and got some photos of the sign and coaster from the parking lot because I knew I would forget to do it later. For photography fans there are several places where you can get near enough to the coaster to snap some good photos.
The midway is separated from the parking lot by nice grove of trees and a small waterway that I crossed via the concrete bridge. The ticket area featured a small bird, which I saw several places throughout the park. Is this Joyland’s unofficial mascot? The park immediately reminded me of Whalom or Camden because it was so small, especially after having been at a large theme park the day before. My first ride of the day was on the aptly named Roller Coaster (Herb Schmeck/PTC, Dogleg Out & Back, 1949). Like most enthusiasts, and probably most guests in general, the experience of riding a roller coaster with a fixed lapbar and a seat belt was definitely a unique one. As with many older parks the coaster featured no waiting for individual seats- it was sadly first come, first serve. My first ride was in what would be my favorite seat of the coaster, 3.2 (it features three three-bench trains). After the op checked our seat belts he started the chain, warned us not to stand up and lowered the skid brakes. The train made a u-turn out of the station and climbed through a canopy of trees into the open sunlight. We passed under the warning sign and dove down the parabolic first drop. This was my first ride on it without the funky Roller Coaster Weekend Music playing in the background...and in person. It gave some surprisingly good airtime and seemed to be angled a bit to the side on the descent. After a few low-slung hills we sped up the turn to the left and dove back down before heading up into the u-turn. The drop off the turn produced some decent air and we then hit the right-hand turn that led into the series of bunny hops back to the station. For a cool photo of the ride’s layout check out this 1952 aerial shot: http://specialcollections.wichita.edu/wdl/graphics/wsu_ms99-3.2.joyland.1.jpg
The only place I really noticed a problem with the tracking was a pothole on the coaster’s right-hand turn before heading home. The skid brakes slowed us to a smooth stop and I left happy. I thought that one of the more unique sensations I felt during the ride was the pronounced push-pull effect of the trains. That was enhanced by the springs that connected the trains. I could really feel them “snap” and pull the back of the train down the bunny hops and this was the first time I felt the “spring action” take place on a coaster. I got in another ride, again in 3.2, and enjoyed it immensely.
Having gotten my fill of the coaster for a while I wandered around the park. Essentially Joyland is one long midway. It is a bit odd as I felt the left side of the park (as you are walking in) had a classic feel to it. Down here there was Louie the Clown (one of two Wurlitzer clowns left), a Herschell carousel, the Eli Bridge Wheel, a Hrubetz Paratrooper, the Hopkins flume, an Eli Bridge Scrambler and the Roller Coaster. There were lots of trees hanging over the midway and may of the trunks had benches fashioned around them for people to sit and relax. The right side of the midway featured the seemingly out of place Skycoaster, the train station, a Hrubetz trailer-mounted Round Up, the Zumur, a Tilt-a-Whirl, Bumper Cars, the Wacky Shack, the kiddie area and a boarded-up western area. There was lots of open space here covered by concrete and some downright ugly buildings.
Staying close to the coaster I got a ride on the Paratrooper. Unlike most others I have seen (except for the video of the installation at Chicago’s Riverview) this one did not feature a main boom that raised and lowered for simultaneous loading. Instead each car was loaded individually via a crate put under the car for riders to step on to. I got a decent cycle here and enjoyed the greenery.
Next up was the Ferris wheel (Eli Bridge, Eagle Wheel [that is a guess on the model]). It was situated so that I as went over the top I saw a nice view of the coaster’s lift and first drop. After disembarking I got a ride on Joyland Excursions, the park’s train. This one is unique because it was the first C.P. Huntington Train that Chance produced. After winding around the coaster the train passed through several acres of picnic groves then outside the boarded-up western town and past the Wacky Shack and bumper car building. The end of the ride was pretty ugly as it passed some run down buildings and cracked concrete before pulling into the station.
Sadly I found no souvenir stand to purchase my obligatory magnet. Since I had a little extra money for the trip I splurged and took a ride on the 100-foot Skycoaster (Thrilltime, Skycoaster). This ride seems a bit out of place in the park, as most every other ride, save the Sartori kids ride, is quite old. The flight was typical, but I did get a lot of swinging time, which made it worth my money. As time has gone on the arch of the skycoaster in a park has bothered me less and for some reason I do not consider them eyesores as I once did.
I walked down to the end of the midway and enjoyed a cycle on the Bumper Cars (Duce). They hit pretty hard and I got several good whacks in on my fellow drivers. Next door was the Wacky Shack (Dark Ride, combination Bill Tracy and in-house,
http://www.dafe.org/attractions/darkrides/joyland/joyland.htm ). The shack was a weird combination of tricks, some of which could use some updating. Some of my favorites were the gruesome Bill Tracy scenes and especially the line of ceiling “supports” that make the room feel much smaller.
The Zumur (Chance) was next. Essentially this was an updated version of the Watkins swing ride that featured a small amount of tilting. I left the ride and walked down the midway to the picnic groves. As I had seen from the train, the area back here was quite large and not very busy. I took some time to wander back and was amazed at how many old trees still were thriving. There were three main pavilions back here as well as some old horseshoe pits. I found this part of the park to be the most beautiful and it reminded me of Knoebels or Kennywood. I headed back over a suspension bridge that ended a few feet before a set of boards. Behind the tall fence I could see what was left over of the park’s western theme area. For some reason this was closed, too much expense perhaps, and it sat eerily quiet behind the kiddieland. The children’s area featured a lot of classic kids rides including: the Turnpike and Dunebuggies (kids car rides), a Herschell Helicopter, a circular stock car ride, a Mangels Pony Cart, a Mangels coupe car ride and an Eyerly Bulgy the Whale.
Walking back down the midway I noticed that both the Tilt and the carousel had very nice paint schemes with the JP logo on them. I took a ride on the carousel (Allan Herschell, 3-row) as Louie the Clown played away on the Wurlitzer next door. The bright Wurlitzer music floating down the midway made for a nice atmosphere as I spun around and the bell that was run before the ride started was a classic touch. I stopped for a soda at the nearby stand (it was the only one open in the park) and enjoyed a very big medium soda for $2.50 or so. I took my fountain Coke and sat down to listen to Louie do his thing at the organ. For those who do not know, this is believed to be one of two Louies left in the world and the only one in an amusement park. I felt that the opportunity to sit and enjoy his music was worth the price of admission alone
(http://themeparksonline.org/tpoAttraction.asp?parkID=2&ID=1231). After finishing my drink I took a ride on the Log Jam (Hopkins, log flume). The flume was quite large for a park this size. While it banged around in the concrete trough the course was rather unique as it cut through a well-wooded area and there were several splash points. The final splash down was about fifty feet and got me fairly wet.
I ended my day at the Roller Coaster with rides in 1.2, 1.3, 3.3, 1.1 and 3.2. Overall 3.2 remained my favorite as it was considerably smoother than the back seat but had all of the intensity. This is a very fun roller coaster that the whole family can enjoy, but in the first and last cars it should please enthusiasts, too. After spending around four hours at the park the sun was setting and it was off to my hotel.
Conclusion: Joyland is definitely an interesting park. The crowds were lighter than they should have been on a Sunday, but it sounds like overall the park has had a good year. I would highly advise that anyone passing through spend some time at Joyland. Those who are “coasters only” can ride it and leave and those who enjoy the small park atmosphere are invited to stay a while. Those who are fans of the large themers probably need not apply. This is the kind of park that makes me wish I could win millions in the lottery because I would buy the park and work on improving it. With a fresh injection of capital for general improvements and a few new rides this could really be a top-notch park. The hard parts to get like groves of trees and a unique character are there, now it just needs a unified vision to push it forward. With the armed forces bases in the area and an abundance of blue-collar families in town I would think that the park has a very good pool of potential customers to draw from in a decent-sized market. It will be interesting to watch and see where the park grows (and goes) from here.
Footnote: For anyone interested, much of the music on this trip was: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Springsteen, Do You Want More? by the Roots, Hard Candy by Counting Crows, By the Way by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimmy Buffett’s Havana Daydreamin’, Weezer’s Maladroit, Wilco’s Summer Teeth and Billy Joel’s Glass Houses.
> Footnote: For anyone interested, much of the
> music on this trip was: Darkness on the Edge of
> Town by Springsteen, Do You Want More? by the
> Roots, Hard Candy by Counting Crows, By the Way
> by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimmy Buffett’s
> Havana Daydreamin’, Weezer’s Maladroit, Wilco’s
> Summer Teeth and Billy Joel’s Glass Houses.
What no S-Club 7??? Thanks for the TR. BTW- It took Hard Candy about 20 listens to finally grow on me. For a rich guy, Duritz sure is a depressed SOB.